We need more non-contact time;Letter;Opinion

9th July 1999 at 01:00
THE new Conservative shadow education secretary articulates the frustrations of many teachers when she boldly states "Let the teachers teach!" ("Extra charisma from the Tories", TES, June 25).

That is exactly what teachers want to do, to improve the learning and maximise the achievement of their pupils. Unfortunately, the Government seems intent on stifling good teaching by tying teachers down with the highly prescriptive national literacy and numeracy projects, which require exhaustive planning and a frantic search every weekend for stimulating resources not yet commercially available. On top of that, we are told of the impending drive to similarly tighten up the science curriculum and to reimpose the history and geography orders in key stages 1 and 2. Primary teachers have a poor deal; they must do all this detailed planning and preparation and carry out a 100 per cent class teaching commitment.

I am the acting deputy headteacher of a child-centred primary school. The staff at my school work hard, they put in long hours and they show total commitment to children in a disadvantaged area. They really do want the best for the children, but the sheer burden of the work required to implement these new initiatives - first the literacy project, next year the numeracy strategy - is destroying morale because it makes dedicated teachers think that they are failing in their job and this makes me feel angry. My colleagues cannot put in any extra hours and they are becoming disillusioned with the job they love.

I have a practical suggestion. How about providing the resources to enable primary schools to provide an afternoon's non-contact time for their staff, if not every week, at least fortnightly, so that they can plan and prepare for the successful implementation of projects they do actually believe in? Such an investment would boost morale and improve confidence and help teachers to meet Mr Blunkett's literacy and numeracy targets.

Theresa May is right, teachers do want to teach but they need the confidence of the Government and the resources to do job properly and to deliver the high-quality teaching all children deserve.

Gary Terretta Acting deputy headteacher Northam primary school Kent Street Northam Southampton

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